Clear Error and Great Deference

In the PCA’s Book of Church Order, chapter 39, there are a couple of very important paragraphs that bear greatly on the SJC’s treatment of lower courts. Here are the relevant paragraphs, from 39-4:

1. A higher court, reviewing a lower court, should limit itself to the issues raised by the parties to the case in the original (lower) court. Further, the higher court should resolve such issues by applying the Constitution of the church, as previously established through the constitutional process.
2. A higher court should ordinarily exhibit great deference to a lower court regarding those factual matters which the lower court is more competent to determine, because of its proximity to the events in question, and because of its personal knowledge and observations of the parties and witnesses involved. Therefore, a higher court should not reverse a factual finding of a lower court, unless there is clear error on the part of the lower court.
3. A higher court should ordinarily exhibit great deference to a lower court regarding those matters of discretion and judgment which can only be addressed by a court with familiar acquaintance of the events and parties. Such matters of discretion and judgment would include, but not be limited to: the moral character of candidates for sacred office, the appropriate censure to impose after a disciplinary trial, or judgment about the comparative credibility of conflicting witnesses. Therefore, a higher court should not reverse such a judgment by a lower court, unless there is clear error on the part of the lower court.
4. The higher court does have the power and obligation of judicial review, which cannot be satisfied by always deferring to the findings of a lower court. Therefore, a higher court should not consider itself obliged to exhibit the same deference to a lower court when the issues being reviewed involve the interpretation of the Constitution of the Church. Regarding such issues, the higher court has the duty and authority to interpret and apply the Constitution of the Church according to its best abilities and and understanding, regardless of the opinion of the lower court.

Paragraphs 2 and 3 delineate the circumstances in which great deference should be given to the lower courts. I was re-reading this today when something popped out at me from paragraph 3. The “comparative credibility of conflicting witnesses” constitutes something about which the higher court should exhibit deference to the lower court “unless there is clear error on the part of the lower court.” If there is clear error on the part of the lower court’s judgment about the comparative credibility of conflicting witnesses, then the higher court can reverse a judgment by a lower court. The credibility of the witnesses is a very important piece of the whole process. Discrediting a witness can be a vital key in any court process. It can be the hinge on which the entire case turns.

PNW Presbytery certainly tried to discredit my testimony in several ways. In their final decision, for instance, the PNW’s SJC rejected my credibility for the following reasons: I had (apparently) published no books or journal articles, by which I might rise “above the ordinary in his field” (see page 13). This is false. I have 2 full-length journal articles to my name, published in the Confessional Presbyterian, as well as several book reviews in the same journal, and a pending article in a book, which is a Festschrift to David Wells. By their own definition, someone who has “experience” rising above the ordinary in the field would qualify as an expert witness. Anyone who has read my blog would know that there is no one who has done more debate with the proponents of the FV than I have. There are few who have more experience than I do in actual interaction with FV proponents. They claim that an advanced degree in theology would be a Th.M., or a Ph.D. This definition is completely arbitrary. Why exactly doesn’t an M.Div. qualify as an advanced theology degree? It is a master’s (read “expert’s”!) degree. In almost any other field, a master’s degree in that field is considered an advanced degree. It is completely arbitrary to say that an M.Div. does not constitute an advanced theology degree.

Secondly the decision (pp. 13-14) says that they could not give any credence to my testimony because I had demonstrated bias against the defendant. I have two responses to this: firstly, I was a witness for the prosecution not in a secular trial, but in a doctrinal controversy trial. Of course I am biased in favor of the prosecution! If this reasoning of PNW holds, then why didn’t they reject Leithart’s testimony as demonstrating a clear bias in favor of the defendant? This is not a secular court.

The third instance of clear error in the PNW’s decision has to be quoted in full:

However, much if not all of the controversy concerning Dr. Leithart’s views can be traced to the witness himself and his blog. Leading a campaign against a man, then claiming that, even if the man should be found innocent, the Court should remove him from the PCA because a campaign was waged against him is inappropriate in an expert witness (p. 14).

This is nothing other than libel against me. “Much if not all?” Excuse me, but I had published very few blog posts about Peter Leithart prior to the trial. From June 21, 2007 to October 1, 2007, I published a total of 15 blog posts that were a response to Leithart’s own request to interact with his materials in an exegetical way. The controversy with Leithart started quite a long time before June 21, 2007. Fifteen blog posts out of a total of over 300 blog posts on the Federal Vision is not a huge amount, and hardly constitutes “leading a campaign” against the man. I neither started the controversy, nor led a campaign against the man. As I said, that is libel. They also misread my statements in context. My statements about the court removing Leithart even if he was found innocent were intended to seek to provide a way for people to honor their own conscience while still promoting the peace and purity of the PCA. PNW has attributed far more sinister intentions to my statements on that point than were ever intended on my part.

The point I am trying to make here is that these are clear errors on the part of PNW with regard to the credibility of the witnesses. These clear errors do not have to be pointed out by the prosecution in order for the SJC to see them, if they are in the record of the case, which they certainly were. Therefore, the SJC most certainly could have over-ruled PNW’s decision based on PNW’s flawed apprehension of the credibility of the witnesses (after all, some of the defense witnesses had read none of Leithart’s works whatsoever: so are they credible witnesses in the area of Leithart’s theology just because they has a Ph.D. after their names, whereas I am not a credible witness, because I do not have a Ph.D. after my name, even though I have read all of Leithart’s theological works? Does this not constitute another clear error on the part of PNW in the evaluation of witnesses? I would argue that it shows a deliberate facing away from the evidence).

90 Comments

  1. Seneca Griggs said,

    October 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    If they don’t like you (and they don’t) then the rules don’t apply in your case. They are politicians, you’re a problem they just want to get rid of. Even if you had a Ph.D. they would have found a way to impugn your testimony.
    You were probably screwed from day one. Your weakness is: you thought they’d play by the rules. Not so.

  2. Lee said,

    October 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Lane,
    Technically I think they are right about point 1, although they used the wrong terminology. An MDiv is a professional masters degree, not an academic one. Just as the Dmin is a professional degree and not an academic one. So the PNW appears to be saying that they require an advanced ACADEMIC degree in theology to be considered an expert. They are not arbitrary on that point. Elitist maybe, but not arbitrary.

    But let me say, I am sorry that you have been so shamefully attacked by a presbytery in your own denomination. It is hard to read their decision or the trial transcript without thinking that they clearly did not want honest interaction with Dr. Leithart’s theology.

    I will be praying for the PCA. I hope you are well. I was back in Herreid a few weeks ago. The Hall family says hello.

    Blessings,
    Lee

  3. Phil D. said,

    October 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    What about the credibility of the prosecutor? I rember seeing a comment by Spellman on Mark Horne’s blog – posted after he had been appointed prosecutor but several months prior to the trial – in which he expressed regret that Leithart’s views on baptism had been part of the case against him. Really?! That was the very heart of the case, wasn’t it? The clear implication seemed that Spellman had a good amount of sympathy with those views. Just by giving such an appearance he should have recused himself then and there.

    BTW, I have searched several times for that comment, but it seems to have been on a thread that was expunged during the Great FV Website Purge that occurred shortly thereafter. If some techy who has the ability to search for and recover such things sees this, it might well be a worthwhile endeavor.

  4. Phil D. said,

    October 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Should of course be “I remember”… (dumb smart phone…) :)

  5. October 15, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Lane,

    Well said and I agree. Meyers’ defense team tried a much lesser version of that on me, but it hardly mattered since the outcome was pre-determined.

    We apparently live in an era where truth is expendable and the BCO is fungible. As Todd Pruitt pointed out, the last taboo in evangelicalism is publicly confronting public error. The good ol’ boys just circle the wagons and obscure the truth in the resultant dust cloud.

  6. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    C. H. Spurgeon never went to college, let alone attended seminary. Dr. Lloyd-Jones had no formal theological training. Yet these men were giants in intellect and in knowledge. Pity the poor mental midgets who tried to take on Brother Spurgeon and The Doctor.

    Every snob is a nuisance. A Christian snob is worse, for he often buries God’s truth to hide his own ignorance. We seem to have some prominent theological snobs in the PCA. By their fruits you shall know them.

  7. ghenry said,

    October 16, 2013 at 4:20 am

    An M.Div is an expert in theology in comparison to laypeople. But in the *field* of theology an M.Div is one of the most common degrees, and not above the ordinary. In the *field* of theology, a Th.M or a Ph.D would better qualify as an expert degree. For example, Letham has written an important scholarly work on the WCF. He was called in as an expert on the WCF. In that sense, he functioned correctly as an “expert witness.” An M.Div, by contrast, is a general degree. It is not a degree of specialized expertise.

    However, whether one is an expert or not does not in itself refute the actual content of one’s argument.

    I do feel you hurt your argument by suggesting that, even if Leithart were innocent of all charges, he should be booted from the PCA for causing a “controversy.” You said:

    “In fact it would add to the peace and purity of the PCA by suggesting that a very controversial theologian would be more comfortable, less likely to make waves if he move to another denomination. You could vote to encourage Leithart to do that even if you disagree with every single point the prosecution and its witnesses have brought up. But it will not be conducive to the peace or purity of the PCA if you vote to have him stay where he is.” (116)

    AND

    “What I – – What I’m thinking here is, we take vows to uphold the peace and purity of the denomination. And this isn’t, you know, all of this is not conducive to the peace of the denomination if the controversy still lasts beyond that. If it still goes on and on and there is still strife in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery about it. If there’s still strife in the Standing Judicial Commission concerning it. So, one – – all I’m saying is that one could find in one’s conscience a place to say I want to uphold the peace of the church even though I don’t find anything particularly, I don’t find anything particularly convincing in the prosecution’s case. I could still find it in my conscience to uphold the peace by suggesting, not compelling but suggesting that you move to another denomination.” (141)

    Though you didn’t intend it so, this does come across rather desperate, as an attempt to get Leithart out of the PCA at any cost regardless of whether his theology is confessional or not. Controversy alone is not a reason to remove someone from a denomination. What you said suggested that the controversy surrounding Leithart, rather than his interpretation of the confession, was the big issue. I can’t imagine any trial being sympathetic to such an argument, especially considering they know Leithart personally. Kick out a beloved brother only because he is controversial? No way!

    Obviously that’s not what you intended that argument to convey, but regardless it was a misstep, methinks.

    G. Henry

  8. Phil D. said,

    October 16, 2013 at 6:57 am

    OK… Apologies to Jason STELLMAN for getting his name wrong. Too rushed last night when I posted. Sorry about that.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    October 16, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Mr. Henry, as to the M.Div. degree, I completely disagree. Just because a degree is common does not mean that it is not advanced. Ph.D.’s are relatively common these days, too. Furthermore, possession of a Ph.D. does not guarantee expertise in a particular field. As far as I could tell, the only Ph.D. that was truly an expert in the field of Leithart’s theology was Leithart himself.

    As to my argument regarding Leithart, do you feel that PNW had any obligation whatsoever to put any kind of charitable interpretation on my statement? After all, I am a minister in good standing, and was not known to any of them personally, surely reason to bend over backwards in charity. The way they treated me shouldn’t have happened to a slimeball, quite frankly. I believe I explained myself clearly enough. Do you really believe that all the hoopla surrounding the trial is more conducive to the peace and purity of the PCA than Leithart leaving and going to the CRC would have been? Or, than PNW’s loving suggestion that Leithart might be more comfortable in the CRC? In the last post on Leithart, a Roman Catholic opined that Leithart’s doctrine was not Reformed. Even a Roman Catholic can see it! And he’s not the only one: Stellman STILL believes that Leithart’s theology is not Reformed. How can you interpret PNW’s actions in any other way than circling the wagons? Their actions are indefensible.

  10. Tim Harris said,

    October 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

    But the CRECK is not a church, so why would you/they ask Leithart to transfer there?

    Even if it were, the notion of ministers “transferring” must be regarded as a uniquely American scrambled-eggs phenomenon, and not really consistent with a correct understanding of the holy catholic church.

    Moreover, if it is a gospel issue, as you implied a few posts ago (“I would, however, like to ask the SJC this simple question: is your interpretation of the polity of the PCA putting polity higher in importance than the gospel? If God were to ask you why you allowed a heterodox teacher to remain in the flock, are you going to feel comfortable telling God that the polity of the PCA couldn’t be violated”) and you do think the CRECK is a church, why would you want to inflict a heterodox gospel-denier on them?

    Oddly enough, it may very well be because Leithart has a better doctrine of the church, that he does not “transfer” to the CRECK, knowing that they do not have valid ordination. What the Presbytery should have asked him a long time ago is, Why are you “laboring outside the bounds” for so long, with no intention of persuading your flock to come into the PCA? That would have been simple, and logical.

  11. ghenry said,

    October 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

    A charitable reading of your statement was certainly possible. Was it required? In a trial setting, where every statement must be taken seriously? Where follow-up questions regarding that statement were addressed to you in order to clarify said statement and make sure they were understanding you correctly? I cannot say for sure.

    The statement did seem to shift the center of gravity quite a bit from the content issue to the controversy issue. I’m not sure how much of a prosecution’s case should rest on a “charitable” interpretation of their arguments as opposed to a prima facie interpretation.

  12. ghenry said,

    October 16, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I should probably clarify: “charitable” in the above comment (#11) refers to the flexibility taken in interpreting your statement. Of course charity as a disposition towards all involved is required. But that this charity should require a particular understanding of your statement or “benefit of the doubt” so-to-speak, rather than a more prima facie interpretation, is not clear to me.

  13. Jack Bradley said,

    October 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Lane, I wrote on this blog at the time that I think the prosecution’s (particularly Rayburn’s) treatment of you was at times uncharitable, at best. However, as I also said at the time–as a long-time reader of your blog: your overall reading of Leithart was, and is, uncharitable, at best. That is why I think the prosecution’s overall characterization of your “bias” remains charitable and accurate.

  14. greenbaggins said,

    October 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Mr. Henry, are you of the opinion that a defense should be based on a complete non-interaction with the actual testimony of one of the witnesses? Are you actually claiming that the bulk of the prosecutor’s case rested on my statements on the debatable point, and not on my examination of Leithart’s teaching?

    Jack, I am sick of generalized accusations that I don’t have a clue what Leithart is saying, or that I have not exercised charity towards Leithart. Read the first pages of my testimony again. Pray what exactly more charity is one supposed to exercise who believes that Leithart is teaching contrary to the confessions? The charity that would satisfy you, I suspect, is agreement that Leithart is teaching what the standards teach. Not even the Roman Catholics who frequent my blog believe that. If it inherently uncharitable to believe that Leithart’s teaching is contrary to the standards, then I do hope you’ll level that accusation against the Roman Catholics Nick and Jason, who have both claimed that Leithart’s theology is not Reformed.

    You will notice that since the defense never once interacted with what I actually said, there is no record anywhere of the defense claiming that my testimony misunderstood Leithart. Leithart’s own testimony on the stand confirmed what he said in his writings. All he added was claims that he affirmed what the standards said. Our study committee report says that verbally to affirm the standards, and then to undermine the standards by one’s actual teaching is not to affirm the standards. Please point out precisely where I have misread Leithart. Make sure that in so doing, you have read all of Leithart’s works, so that you can put every single quote that I discussed in the immediate context of the quotation, and in the context of his teaching as a whole (which is what I did). I’ll see you in about 5-6 months. I bent over backwards trying to ensure that I was reading him accurately. You can imagine that the greatest possible effort I have made meeting with a basic “you don’t understand Leithart” or “you haven’t read him charitably” riposte will not convey the slightest convincing power, especially coming from someone who has not read all of Leithart, and also given the fact that I have heard this canard about 6 trillion times. It would be a bit more convincing to me if I hadn’t heard it every single time I’ve written or talked about any FV writer whatsoever. Either I am colossally stupid, and don’t understand the English language, or I am the devil incarnate. Take your pick, Jack, but don’t expect me to believe it.

  15. Stuart said,

    October 16, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I think Lane is right on this one. There are those of us who see Leithart’s views as a gospel issue. In the realm of possibilities we may be wrong, but we see it the way we see it. We can admit there are other groups out there that see things differently (like the CREC), and those groups would be a better fit for a man like Leithart. It’s not a bad idea to point out that fact. In fact, I think it’s the right thing to do pastorally.

  16. Jack Bradley said,

    October 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I won’t pick any of those to describe you, Lane. I have appreciated and gained much from your blog writing over the years. As far as your invitation to “Please point out precisely where I have misread Leithart”, I made an attempt to do that on your blog in the past. I don’t think it would change your mind if I rehashed it now.

  17. ghenry said,

    October 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    “Are you of the opinion that a defense should be based on a complete non-interaction with the actual testimony of one of the witnesses? Are you actually claiming that the bulk of the prosecutor’s case rested on my statements on the debatable point, and not on my examination of Leithart’s teaching?”

    No, and no. In regards to the second point, I think the center-of-gravity shift I mentioned in my comment was unintended on the part of the prosecution. I’m saying that a statement that seemed to be a rhetorical aside about charity / denomination peace instead had the unintended affect of overshadowing your entire testimony. Again, by suggesting that the content claims of the prosecution could be ignored / disagreed with but that Leithart should still be ousted for being “controversial,” you seemed to make controversy the central issue rather than content. I know you didn’t mean it that way, but I can see how it might be misinterpreted that way.

    I’m not saying that the prosecution’s case rested on that “debatable point,” or that the ruling was entirely determined by the reaction to that point.

  18. October 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Fill,

    What about the credibility of the prosecutor? I rember seeing a comment by Spellman on Mark Horne’s blog – posted after he had been appointed prosecutor but several months prior to the trial – in which he expressed regret that Leithart’s views on baptism had been part of the case against him. Really?! That was the very heart of the case, wasn’t it? The clear implication seemed that Spellman had a good amount of sympathy with those views. Just by giving such an appearance he should have recused himself then and there.

    My reason for saying that had nothing to do with any sympathy for Leithart’s views on baptism and their supposed confessional-ness. To this day I think his views on baptism are out of accord with the Standards, and that he should have been removed from the PCA.

    Rather, my reason for saying that was that I didn’t want to turn my case into an opportunity for FV-ers to scoff at how “Bapterian” the PCA is. In many cases, when anti-FV folks argue against the FV view of baptism, they over-correct in a Baptist direction and provide ammo for the other side to just cite a bunch of strong language about baptismal efficacy from the magisterial reformers. I wanted to avoid that trap.

    But since the stuff about baptism did make it into the case, feel free to criticize how I dealt with it in the actual trial. Because I certainly didn’t hear even a peep of dissatisfaction with how I argued, whom I called as witnesses, or what was said in my opening and closing arguments. At least not from anti-FV-ers.

    Spellman

  19. October 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    OK… Apologies to Jason STELLMAN for getting his name wrong. Too rushed last night when I posted. Sorry about that.

    Ha ha, just saw this. No worries, Phil!

  20. Howie Donahoe said,

    October 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Lane – I sense this is still a sensitive matter to you, so I’ll try to clarify carefully and respectfully.

    You wrote above: “The credibility of the witnesses is a very important piece of the whole process… In their final decision, for instance, the PNW’s SJC rejected my credibility for the following reasons…”

    I don’t think the nine-judge trial court questioned your “credibility” per se (at least not as the noun is commonly understood). I think, instead, they simply questioned the value of your testimony (and you were only called by the Prosecution to testify regarding two of the five charges). For whatever reason, or for several reasons, the trial court considered it to be of less value than the testimony from witnesses like Dr. Barker, Dr. Letham and Dr. Collins – and presumably even Dr. Horton who was the other Prosecution witness. Here are three excerpts from the 33-page trial court report:

    “We now turn to the testimony offered by the prosecution’s witness, Mr. Lane Keister, beginning with some preliminary comments on the value of the witness’s testimony.”

    “A further reason for not treating Mr. Keister as an expert witness…”

    “So the Court felt unable to assign any special weight a priori to the witness’s statements of opinion.”

    When BCO 39-4.3 mentions a lower court’s judgment on the “comparative credibility of conflicting witnesses” it probably has in mind the truthfulness of the witnesses. But the noun credibility there probably also contains the idea of the comparative “value” of conflicting witnesses, or perhaps even “authority” or “weight.” But “value” and “credibility” usually convey significantly different things in common speech.

    And while the trial court may have afforded what you consider an inaccurate value to your testimony, the court still interacted with it, prefacing the interaction with the following: “The Court, nevertheless, feels obliged to consider the charges the witness made in his written testimony in the interest of thoroughness and because of the importance of these issues.”

    Finally, at some point one needs to let this go. I say this, I hope, as a friend, a lover of the PCA like you, and a fellow pilgrim stumbling along this rocky road to glory. I think 28 months after the trial and 7 months after the SJC’s appellate review and sustaining of the trial verdicts is probably the let-go point. You have been faithful. You have done what would be expected of someone who believed as you do. You have fought the good fight. You have represented your like-minded brothers well. Time may ultimately prove you were the wise one. But I hope you (and others) can now use your gifts and passions looking forward rather than back.

    Perhaps you, me and “Spellman” can enjoy an IPA together out here in the drizzle someday. Bet the angels would buy tickets for that one.

  21. Martin said,

    October 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Howie, I appreciate the irenic tone of your post. But I must disagree with the conclusion. Should Athanasius have let go after the 1st or 2nd exile? Why keep fighting up to the 3rd and 4th? Should Martin Luther have let go after the Diet of Worms?

    For some of us in the PCA, this is a matter of great importance that cannot simply be moved beyond. Being asked to do so communicates (at least to me) that the one making such a request does not fully appreciate or understand the depth and/or nature of our concerns. What good does it do to tell us, as I’ve heard over and over, that the PCA needs the “conservative” wing, and then reject our concerns when raised?

  22. greenbaggins said,

    October 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Jack, do you think, then, that there might be a better word for you to choose than “uncharitable” to describe my reading of Leithart? To me, that word conveys a sense that I have not loved Leithart, and have set about deliberately misreading him. Why not say instead that you simply disagree with my reading of Leithart? The word “uncharitable” seems to imply that you know what my motivations are. It gets thrown around an awful lot, and in my opinion, not always very carefully. Lack of love is, after all, a very great offense.

    GHenry, that is a fair way of putting things, if you are only intending to seek to show how PNW would have interpreted them.

    Howie, you wrote, “I don’t think the nine-judge trial court questioned your “credibility” per se (at least not as the noun is commonly understood). I think, instead, they simply questioned the value of your testimony (and you were only called by the Prosecution to testify regarding two of the five charges).” You can go on thinking that, if you want, Howie, but it sure doesn’t feel that way to me when they lie about ME and my entire involvement in the FV controversy. That wasn’t directed solely at my testimony. They were throwing dirt at ME. It was a direct attack on my credibility. In fact, the statements concerning my blog are not directly relevant to my testimony at all, but rather only affect my credibility. Otherwise, they would not have brought it up. I don’t buy it.

    They didn’t interact with my testimony, unless you want to call about 1 single page an interaction with 40 pages.

    As to letting this go, Martin’s points are what I feel about this as well, not to mention the possible dealing with the overtures that the SJC might be doing tomorrow by conference call. This issue is hardly dead, Howie.

  23. locirari said,

    October 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    We’re in a Old School/ New School division redux in the Presbyterian world. That means doctrinal and personal divisions persist that aren’t easily “let go” and “moved beyond,” whatever those phrases mean. What are we supposed to be looking forward to? The history of the church in just the twentieth century shows that denominational commitments to openness and revisionism aren’t comfortable and unifying but volatile.

  24. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    It may have been said on this blog recently, but it bears repeating: In the 19th century, Charles Hodge said that the problem with New School men is not what they believe, but what they will tolerate.

    “Old School/New School division redux,” indeed!

    And, with all due respect to Howie, some of us will not let this go. With our convictions, we can’t let it go, just as we can’t let go the actions of a President who continually tramples on the Constitution, even though he seems to win every time. In fact, we presbyters have to hold on even more tightly, since our issues are of eternal consequence, not merely temporal.

  25. Jack Bradley said,

    October 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Lane, I see your point. I did not want to imply that I question your motivations. I retract the word “uncharitable”. I can appreciate your frustration with this term after having spent so many hours with the materials. I admit being frustrated many times in reading your blog over the years with your interpretation of Leithart, but it does remain your hard-earned interpretation.

  26. Cris Dickason said,

    October 17, 2013 at 5:17 am

    Frank @ 24 >> It may have been said on this blog recently, but it bears repeating: In the 19th century, Charles Hodge said that the problem with New School men is not what they believe, but what they will tolerate. <<

    I have not seen that sentiment or quote attributed to Hodge, a good idea to consider. Hopefully I find it referred to in Hoffecker's biography, which I recently started reading. Years ago I read A.A.'s bio of his dad, missed it if was mentioned there. Thanks, Frank.

  27. Cris Dickason said,

    October 17, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Back to #3 and Phil’s observation about a purge of FV sites…There is a public site that does indeed provide a form of access to the internet’s past: The internet Archive at http://archive.org.

    You may be familiar with it as a repository of scanned literature. For instance, many (all?) of the older books from Princeton Seminary have scanned and are available in various formats. You can find Warfield’s copy of Hodge’s Systematics there.

    bBut what you want to consider at the moment is the Wayback Machine function of archive.org. Their name, not mine.

    You type the URL for a website in the wayback entry field, click the [Take Me Back] button and you get a screen listing the timeline and number of times they have a snapshot of the site. For example, you can find that this very greenbaggins.wordpress.com blog has been crawled or captured 71 times. Click on a calendar year, then you see highlighted dates on which the blog was captured. Randomly looking at July 4, 2007, there are indeed some posts on Leithart’s exegesis.

    Hope this is of service – I’m not affiliated with archive.org at all. Just a ruling elder with an M.Div. who landed in the healthcare software field.

    -=Cris=-

  28. Alan D. Strange said,

    October 17, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Cris:

    The matter that Frank cites with respect to Hodge has particularly to do with Hodge’s opposition to the Old School/New School reunion of 1869. Hodge opposed the reunion not because he believed that all, or even most, of the New School imbibed New England theology (denial of original sin, imputation, penal substitutionary view of atonement, etc.), but that the New School, with its loose confessionalism, tolerated such teachings. Hodge was fearful that such would be tolderated in a reuinited church.

    Paul Gutjahr covers this in his biography. Hodge also had several articles in the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review dealing with this question. Hodge favored an Old School reunion between North and South for many reasons, but factors at the time, in both regions, militated against such.

  29. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Chris and Alan,

    I have read the Hoffecker biography of Charles Hodge but misplaced my notes. I’ll try to track down the quotation. If we can’t find the exact wording, I suppose we should file under, “Well, if he didn’t say that in precisely those words, he really should have, and that’s what he meant, anyway.” (Insert smiley face.)

  30. Phil D. said,

    October 17, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Well at least it’s just my short term memory that appears to be failing – while apparently I may not correctly recall a person’s name in a given moment, it seems what they basically said a couple of years ago sticks with me somewhat…

    I still have a problem with a lead prosecutor who readily expresses reluctance or regret about having to prosecute the central charge in a case, regardless of the specific reasons why. Sure, to a certain extent one can put on a mask, so to speak, and play devil’s advocate like a public defendant who is obligated to so proceed in a courtroom. But I believe a case like this involving the integrity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ deserved a FULLY convinced and committed (personally impassioned, as it were) advocate for every aspect of it.

    Also, knowing that Jason was already contemplating leaving for the RCC, and that the very issues being prosecuted are widely considered to be transitional issues for many people that do so, I still think recusal would have been the most honorable and profitable thing to do.

    I know Lane and others have expressed their satisfaction with the competency and content of the prosecution. Personally, I thought there were opportunities where certain points could have been made better or followed through more vigorously. But again, that’s only my personal, layperson’s opinion, and at this point it would be fruitless to further argue about the historical specifics of that aspect of the case.

    It is very painful, I must say, to slowly watch what may turn out to be the beginning of the end of a once steadfast denomination. May God grant otherwise.

  31. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

    “Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton,” by W. Andrew Hoffecker, p. 325:

    Hodge did not believe New Schoolers were heretical, but he contended that historically the New School had held to a latitudinarian view of subscription. Instances such as the trial, appeal, and – in Hodge’s opinion – lack of resolution of the Albert Barnes case supported his concerns.16 On the other hand, we have already seen that Hodge believed that some doctrinal liberty should exist in confessional subscription and that could be a consistent Calvinist while disagreeing with the confession on nonessentials. Hodge and others who opposed reunion believed that New Schoolers had established a pattern of leniency in doctrinal matters. Hodge wrote in the PR, “The question . . . is not what the New-School ministry believe, but what they tolerate.” Old and New parties held a different view on what was essential to the integrity of the confession. Hodge therefore believed that Old School principles would be sacrificed if New School disciplinary procedures were permitted. Gurley’s amendment by allowing theological views previously sanctioned by the New School would nullify the unity of the church.17

    [NOTE: I can’t tell if Hoffecker’s two footnotes in this paragraph cite the passage in Princeton Review that is the source of the quotation. I haven’t read the original passage, nor have I seen what text is omitted by Hoffecker’s ellipsis. That’s all I know for now!]

  32. Phil D. said,

    October 17, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I should probably add that given the overall conduct of the jury (which I agree with Lane was in many ways shameful and not materially objective), I’m not convinced that even if the prosecution had been handled in all the best ways imaginable that the outcome would have been any different. So perhaps my complaints about Jason are irrelevant in the end. But still, having the best possible plan, procedure and personnel involved is always most desirable and deserved in a landmark case like this, right?

    What a mess.

  33. Phil D. said,

    October 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    BTW, is there anything I can do about the red Swastika-looking-thingy that seems to have been assigned to identify my posts? (although I’m sure some may find it appropriate…) ;)

  34. October 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Phil,

    I still have a problem with a lead prosecutor who readily expresses reluctance or regret about having to prosecute the central charge in a case, regardless of the specific reasons why.

    Well, if you’re ever appointed the prosecutor in a doctrinal trial against a member of your own presbytery, you’ll have your chance to plan a better strategy. I explained my thoughts on the baptism charge already, so I’ll not repeat them again. In front of a fair and informed jury I could easily win by just focusing on his other non-confessional ideas, without giving the defense a chance to charge us all with being Bapterians.

    But I believe a case like this involving the integrity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ deserved a FULLY convinced and committed (personally impassioned, as it were) advocate for every aspect of it.

    I am, to this day, FULLY convinced of everything I argued at trial, especially the part about Leithart’s view of baptism being nowhere near confessional. Go read the transcript and find something to criticize.

    Also, knowing that Jason was already contemplating leaving for the RCC, and that the very issues being prosecuted are widely considered to be transitional issues for many people that do so, I still think recusal would have been the most honorable and profitable thing to do.

    Phil, you simply don’t know what you’re talking about. I was the only Old School/confessional minister in the PNWP, no one else even cared about this issue. No one else could have argued the case. It would have been a complete farce (more than it actually was). I believed in what I was doing (and still do), and to back out after years of fighting so that some cwaga guy could reluctantly take up the cause at its most crucial moment would have been a bad idea.

    I know Lane and others have expressed their satisfaction with the competency and content of the prosecution. Personally, I thought there were opportunities where certain points could have been made better or followed through more vigorously. But again, that’s only my personal, layperson’s opinion, and at this point it would be fruitless to further argue about the historical specifics of that aspect of the case.

    The majority of my case was Lane’s testimony, but if he has voiced disappointment at my performance, this is the first I am hearing of it. My guess is that if I had not joined the dark side of the Force you would all just be complaining about the unfairness and shady tactics displayed in the actual trial, but since I am now a papist this whole thing must be my fault.

    I don’t know what else to say, I did my best. There was NO WAY that case could have been won in the PNWP (one member of the jury moved to dismiss for lack of evidence the second I rested my case, despite admitting to everyone that he hadn’t even read Lane’s 40-page testimony. It was an unwinnable case, and my goal was to get the best evidence into the ROC so that others would see what we all saw. Alas, that didn’t happen, despite my having provided ample evidence for Leithart’s guilt.

    I hate to say it, but my being a Catholic now doesn’t get the PCA off the hook for finally displaying that it is not a Reformed church in any meaningful sense of the word. Sure, I may be a member of the whore of Babylon’s synagogue of Satan, but you’re a member of a broadly evangelical denomination that’s well on its way to liberalism. And THAT was the problem in the Leithart case, and not my supposed failure to furnish enough evidence to convict.

  35. Phil D. said,

    October 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Jason, I have never met you, and while I can’t fathom abandoning the purity and simplicity of the biblical Gospel for the blatant idolatry and blasphemies of Rome, my criticisms certainly aren’t based on any personal dislike or disrespect for you. Yet all things considered, and despite your pleas to the contrary, I still believe recusal would have been the most honorable and right thing to do – sorry. At that point the right way to proceed would have to have been left to Providence, the reality of which I am a great believer.

    As for the last 2 paragraphs of your post 34, in the end I don’t think we’re too far apart on this particular portion of your analysis (see my post 32). I think things went wrong on a lot of different levels in this case. (And, for the record, I will likely not formally be a member of the PCA much longer as, providentially :-), I now attend a different church after making an interstate move.)

  36. Martin said,

    October 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I agree with Jason on two things:

    1) He is “a member of the whore of Babylon’s synagogue of Satan.” Though, if the halfling is successful on his quest, the power of the Dark One may still be able to be broken.

    2) Jason, et al, did as good a job as anyone could expect on Leithart’s prosecution. Monday morning, armchair quarterbacking is silly and fruitless.

    Reluctantly I am coming to agreement as well that the PCA is a broadly evangelical denomination on its way to liberalism.

    So, as a confessional Presbyterian, WHAT’S A GUY TO DO? (That’s in all caps so that maybe it will carry from my distant outpost location here in So Cal, over the Rockies, across the fruited plains and mighty Mississippi to the ears of my Southern brethren. :-) )

    We can sit here and re-hash history, or prepare for the future. I realize the Leithart overtures concerning original jurisdiction are still pending (unless that meeting was held by phone today – anyone know? Any news?) and so is the Siouxlands case. But do we really expect a different outcome?

  37. CD-Host said,

    October 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    @Phil —

    BTW, is there anything I can do about the red Swastika-looking-thingy that seems to have been assigned to identify my posts? (although I’m sure some may find it appropriate…) ;)

    http://en.gravatar.com
    I think you might also have to be logging in to wordpress, I’m not sure.

    FWIW as far as my opinion as an outsider. I think Jason overcharged. That’s consistently been the biggest mistake regarding FV. A good recent example of this in a different context that is much more clear cut is the George Zimmerman trial where Zimmerman got acquitted of manslaughter because the prosecution had to argue a case consistent with murder.

    As an aside, I also suspect that the prosecution (more broadly the entire anti-FV movement) failed to address (and still is failing to address) legitimate concerns about the broader implications of a guilty finding, because they consider their concerns as irrelevant. An “I find this argument compelling so everyone else should”. There are downsides of politicizing a trial.

  38. Mark B said,

    October 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    “It may have been said on this blog recently, but it bears repeating: In the 19th century, Charles Hodge said that the problem with New School men is not what they believe, but what they will tolerate. ”

    This bears repeating often.

  39. Howie Donahoe said,

    October 18, 2013 at 5:53 am

    Jason @35 – You’ll recall you submitted Lane’s lengthy testimony in writing at the trial. The defense asked to be able to read it overnight and question the witness the next morning. You said the witness would be unavailable then. So defense agreed to allow you to enter the written document, and then he took the stand. Defense was unable to read the document for cross-examination (though the judges were able to read it later). So his testimony was entered without you needing to use any of your allotted time to have it presented orally, which allowed you (intentionally or not) much more time to cross-examine the defendant – who voluntarily took the stand (an important fact often forgot).

    Martin@22 – Frankly, there are many who’d consider your analogies to Athanasius and to Luther as extreme hyperbole. But I expect we won’t see eye to eye on that.

    Flying westbound yesterday I was thinking about the concept of subjection – and the beauty of it (ordination vow in particular). We often treat it as an act of the will, which it is, but it’s also a beauty to be embraced and honored. There’s something beautiful about a minister who submits to the rules of his denomination, and quietly, even though he’s convinced the rules prevent covenant children from beneficial participation in the Lord’s Supper. There’s something exquisite about a ruling elder who, though he usually votes in a minority of one, still respectfully and joyfully supports the decisions of his Session and publicly praises those who, in the privacy of a Session meeting, he thinks are wrong. There’s something heroic about a presbyter who submits to the decisions of his Church disallowing women in certain roles when he is absolutely convinced biblically and culturally that it’s bad exegesis, bad for the Church, bad for mission, and bad for men and women and children. There’s something Rembrandt-esque about a music director who’s a world-class composer yet submits to the musically and lyrically pedestrian decisions of the minister. There’s something absolutely otherworldly about a wife who submits to the stumbling, bumbling “leadership” of a less-than-stellar husband (take my bride, for example).

    I’ve known such men and women. These Beautiful Submitters. These Sovereignty Trusters. I consider them some of my biggest heroes (along with Athanasius and Luther and Hodge and …)

  40. greenbaggins said,

    October 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Jack, I appreciate your thoughts in 26. It’s one of the very first times I’ve seen someone who doesn’t agree with my position on the FV actually try to see things through my viewpoint. Thanks for that.

    Howie, submission is a wonderful thing. However, being silent when a gospel matter is at stake is not such an instance, is it? Unless you think Luther should just have kept quiet at Worms and “submitted” to the bishops. You undoubtedly do not think that a gospel issue is at stake in the Leithart case. But you must realize that people like me DO think that. Therefore, the higher loyalty to the Gospel in the Bible kicks in here.

  41. locirari said,

    October 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Howie,

    You’ve beautifully explained what’s wrong with the PCA. Men beautifully submit, you say, to all kinds of error enshrined in the denomination’s Confessions, Catechisms and Church Order. I think it’s less than pretty. Men go around chafing under what they believe to be an antiquated, erroneous Confession and Church Order, and far from joyfully submitting, never entirely bottle up their discontent. I don’t see effective submission on the progressive side. Rather, the forces for FV, paedocommunion, women in office and other unReformed, revisionist views actively disquiet the PCA. In my case, as a confessionalist, I don’t feel welcome in one local PCA church because the minister, far from joyfully submitting, boldly ridicules the Westminster Confession from the pulpit. As you know, I live in the sphere of the PNWP.

  42. Greg said,

    October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    When we consider the Leithart matter and the failure of PNWP to properly adjudicate what was plainly set before them, and when we witness the SJC’s apparent preference of the BCO to the Standards, shouldn’t we should pause and ask what the nature of those parties’ subjection to the Standards has been? Sure we all agree submission and unity are good things; but when the truth of the Gospel is challenged we ought to bow to no man (or commission) who would tolerate/approve/ignore (however sincerely) the corruption of the one and only Gospel into “another gospel” and then put to us that we ought to submit to such erroneous rulings. But some say, “what about those beautiful ordination vows?”

    From BCO 21-5 (Question 6):

    6. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the
    truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of
    the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise
    unto you on that account?

    Yes, that is beautiful! Even in the face of persecution or opposition. And you’ve been fine examples for us all, Lane and Bob.

  43. ghenry said,

    October 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    From the other recent post: “The Standing Judicial Commission will meet in early October to discuss the overtures requesting the SJC to assume original jurisdiction.”

    When will the outcome of this discussion be announced? Or was it already?

  44. Mark B said,

    October 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    It is my understanding that the fall SJC meeting has been canceled.

  45. Mark B said,

    October 18, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Howie seems to have an extremely strange prioritization for submission. Isn’t their something in those ordination vows he mentions about “sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures”, or is my memory getting fuzzy?

  46. Howie Donahoe said,

    October 19, 2013 at 2:50 am

    locirari@42 – I wasn’t referring to men who “actively disquiet” the PCA. I was referring to men who do just the opposite. They quietly and humbly submit to the authority of their Church – despite being convinced their brothers are incorrect with regard to something – and often something very important. It’s that kind of submission I admire and see genuinely manifest in many PCA elders and ministers.
    I could have chosen many other examples: men who believe it’s wrong and dangerous to allow non-Calendar Day views to be held, or who believe it’s wrong to allow non-psalms to be sung or pictures of Jesus in stained glass windows, or who believe the PCA is far too loose on its Sabbath permissiveness, or who believe intinction is a travesty, or who believe anyone who holds a paedocommunion view should not be a PCA minister, or who believes the PCA is loose on parents who neglect baptizing their children (a “great sin” according to WCF, yet one rarely if ever disciplined, much less spoken about, in PCA churches). Many men humbly submit to the PCA’s decisions on these things, which they’re convinced are wrong.

    You went on to allege there’s a PCA church in the Pacific NW Presbytery where the minister “boldly ridicules the Westminster Confession from the pulpit.” Happily, I cannot imagine who that might be. Please give me his name so I can take him to lunch or a beer and inquire, and if your allegation is valid, I’ll explain how that’s clearly not how a minister should behave who has promised submission to his brethren. Any number of our presbyters would be willing to do the same.

    Continuing on the subject of submission – I’m genuinely curious how some ministers would react in the following scenario. Let’s say you pastor First Pres Anytown and have a Session with 10 ruling elders, including elders Smith and Jones. Now Smith charges Jones with holding heretical views. You hold a trial and acquit Jones of the charges. Smith files a Complaint, which the Session denies, and he carries the Complaint to Presbytery, which also denies it. Now Smith, rather than submitting to the Church’s ruling, starts sending emails to the people of First Pres criticizing the Session’s decision, as well as Presbytery’s decision. He blogs about it. He distributes literature to the congregants. He publicly accuses the Session of not being confessional and of misunderstanding the gospel – continually. It’s disruptive. But he claims the gospel is at stake. His brothers on the Session and in Presbytery disagree. He is reminded that he had opportunity to voice his concerns in his Complaint. And he is free to file a Protest on the record. He is free to use constitutional channels for redress. But Smith claims he must continue publicly criticizing the church’s decision because he is simply doing what Athanasius and Luther did. He won’t let the Session focus on anything else. He constantly brings it up and tries, from various angles, to get the acquittal reversed.
    I’ve been a ruling elder for 28 years in four Presbyteries and I’m not sure I’ve known any minister that would allow Smith to continue disrupting the local church in that way. I expect most would tell him to submit or find another church where he can submit. I expect most would not be swayed by Smith’s claim of being the modern day equivalent of Luther. Thoughts?

  47. Sean Gerety said,

    October 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Howie, what a load of self-serving pious sounding claptrap. To suggest that the gospel isn’t at stake in the fight over the FV and that submission in this case is “Rembrandt-esque” makes me sick to my stomach. And, don’t worry Howie, I’m quite sure depending on how the SJC’s decision goes you won’t have to worry about people like Lane disturbing your illusions of peace.

    But, let me ask you Howie, if the SJC reverses itself and disciplines Leithart by tossing him out of office will you leave the PCA or quietly submit to their decision and admit the PNW’s utter bankruptcy in this case in their failure to correctly adjudicate a notorious heretic?

    Lane, I guess you have your answer re Luther.

  48. Mark B said,

    October 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    The issue with Howie’s position is thus. If, as we (those ordained to office in the PCA) stated in our vows, we “sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures”, we cannot do as he asks. Howie lists examples of things that he claims we should defer to our brothers on, but among those things are many that are unconfessional. If we believe what we said in our vows, that means we believe they are contrary to the very written Word of God. Thus, Howie is explicitly stating that we should submit to the opinions of men rather than the Voice of God. That would make our church (the PCA) an institution of Men, rather than the Bride of Christ. We would be just like the Catholic Church, and institution of Man, only governed as a democracy rather than a monarchy. How can those of us that love God’s church stay silent when brothers error? Is not the loving thing to call them back to the word of God?

  49. Howie Donahoe said,

    October 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Sean @48 – I didn’t mean to say anything about the “fight over the FV” (whatever that might generally mean). I was only referencing submission to one particular decision of the PCA’s SJC. And my short answer to your question is: (1) I don’t plan to, or ever expect to, leave the PCA and (2) Yes, I would quietly submit to the PCA’s Constitution and to any decision made by the Church through its SJC. I have sometimes written dissenting opinions as a judge on the SJC, and sometimes as a minority of one, but that’s where the dissent ends.

    BCO 45-5 wisely stipulates: If a dissent, protest, or objection be couched in temperate language, and be respectful to the court, it shall be recorded; and the court may, if deemed necessary, put an answer to the dissent, protest, or objection on the records along with it. Here the matter shall end, unless the parties obtain permission to withdraw their dissent, protest, or objection absolutely, or for the sake of amendment.

    This language goes back at least to the Book of 1879. It’s a long-established and well-tested Presbyterian procedure. The BCO gives certain people in the minority the right to file a dissent, protest, or objection (DPO) against some act or decision of the Church (Session or Presbytery, and in certain instances, the SJC or GA). And, if the court determines the “respectfulness” standard is met, the protester has the right to have it appear on the public record. But then the protesting is over – herein, my point.

    Those who file DPOs are, by definition, in the minority. And “subjection to the brethren” includes the behavior of minorities when they disagree with a decision of the Church/court. At some point, the protesting ends. Our polity, and presumably the ordination vow regarding subjection, does not envision someone continually protesting a decision. They can use constitutional avenues through Complaint or Appeal and, in certain instances, more specific routes like BCO 34-1 or 40-5. They have the right to file a DPO. But at some point, they’ve had their say. Then the Church has the final word – not the individual(s). Those who want the right to continually protest against a decision of the Church should seek to amend BCO 45-5 and propose deleting the very important phrase: “and here the matter shall end.”

    Mark B @49 – At an elder’s ordination, when he “promises to strive for the purity, peace, unity and edification of the Church,” he promises to do ALL those things. They’re not mutually exclusive. We should purely seek the Church’s peace and peacefully seek its purity. I’m not sure it’s helpful when people try to set them in opposition, or neglect one for the other. Some purity-seekers often forget love is a doctrinal issue, as is unity. Some peace-seekers often forget purity contributes to peace and unity.

    You wrote: “Howie is explicitly stating that we should submit to the opinions of men rather than the Voice of God.” Not sure I would express it that way, but I am saying a PCA elder should submit to the decisions of the Church, rather than his own individual decision (even if he thinks he’s hearing the voice of God.) If I’m wrong, then I don’t understand the ordination vow promising “subjection” to my brethren. I don’t believe it means “I will submit to the decisions of the Church, so long as they comport with my interpretation of the Standards and my interpretation of the Scriptures.” And in another ordination vow, when I affirm that I “approve of the form of government of the PCA… in conformity with the general principles of biblical polity,” I assume I was promising to abide by, for example, BCO 45-5, which says, “here the matter shall end.”

    Thanks for your patience with my lengthy replies.

  50. Sean Gerety said,

    October 19, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    (1) I don’t plan to, or ever expect to, leave the PCA and (2) Yes, I would quietly submit to the PCA’s Constitution and to any decision made by the Church through its SJC.

    Thanks, Howie, That’s all I needed. You could care less about the Gospel and you don’t care that you, the PNW and the heretic you protect has dragged the name of Christ through the mud. You are exactly the kind of man I expected you were.

  51. ghenry said,

    October 19, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Howie @ #40: “Frankly, there are many who’d consider your analogies to Athanasius and to Luther as extreme hyperbole.”

    Agreed wholeheartedly. This sort of posturing is overdramatic and unhelpful.

    Mark @ #45: “Howie lists examples of things that he claims we should defer to our brothers on, but among those things are many that are unconfessional. If we believe what we said in our vows, that means we believe they are contrary to the very written Word of God. Thus, Howie is explicitly stating that we should submit to the opinions of men rather than the Voice of God. That would make our church (the PCA) an institution of Men, rather than the Bride of Christ.”

    This is both incorrect and un-Reformed. First of all, the confessions are by their very nature the “opinions of men,” open to correction from Scripture. Agreement with the confessions is not necessarily conformity to the Word of God or the “Voice of God.” Your portrayal of confessionalism veers towards a Roman Catholic view of church doctrine and authority. Submission to the confession is not submission to God’s Word.

    Secondly, the PCA alone is not the Bride of Christ. The church universal and invisible is the Bride of Christ. Once you try to constrain the definition of the Bride of Christ to your denominations institutional forms you are espousing again a Roman Catholic ecclesial ontology.

    I love the Westminster Confession, but the confessionalism you’ve described here runs contrary to the WCF itself as well as to the Reformed theological tradition as a whole.

  52. ghenry said,

    October 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Sean, you keep using the word “heretic.” That word doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.

  53. Mark B said,

    October 19, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    ghenry

    You missed the rather simple point I made and erected a strawman to wack.
    If we recognize the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, then agreement with the confession is conformity with the Word of God. Yes, we recognize that they are not perfect (they state that themselves), but we subscribe to them because believe they are a faithful summation of Scripture. This is part of the essence of being Reformed. We confess what we believe Scripture says. This is what the confession is meant to be. We confess to the world and to other believers what it is we believe the Voice of God is saying through His Written Word. If you don’t believe that, you shouldn’t subscribe to the confession.
    As to your second point I’m not sure how you managed to apparently assume I was suggesting the PCA is in some way the only Bride of Christ??

  54. ghenry said,

    October 19, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Mark,

    It isn’t a straw man. Your interpretation / confession is not the Word or Voice of God. The actual objective Word of God (Scripture) is the Word of God. Its a big distinction that you seem to be missing by suggesting that going against what we believe in our vows (subjective) is going against the Voice of God (objective). Once you start making that strong of a necessary logical correlation between the Church’s reception of Scripture and the authority of Scripture itself, you are making a Roman traditionalist claim.

    Let me put it in personal terms. I believe the WCF to be an accurate summation of some of the doctrines of Scripture (it isn’t exhaustive). However, I recognize that it doesn’t use the language of Scripture. It wasn’t divinely inspired. It is rather a church tradition’s interpretation of Scripture. It isn’t Scripture itself. I am under the authority of Scripture in a way that I am not under the authority of the confession. My interpretation of Scripture is not the Word of God. Rather, Scripture is the Word of God, and I am to seek to interpret and receive it faithfully.

    Going against your interpretation of Scripture is hence not necessarily by logical consequence going against the Word of God. Your interpretation is a subjective appropriation that may or may not actually conform to God’s Word. That’s not to say that we should be skeptics or gnostics, it is simply to say God’s act of revealing is perfect and our act of receiving is fallible.

    I do not believe the confession is the Voice of God. Nor does the confession make that claim anywhere. God speaks through Scripture, not the confession.

  55. ghenry said,

    October 19, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    In other words, if you vow to affirm the confession, you are not going against the Word of God when someone else fails to uphold their vows to do the same. Submitting to the PCA’s decision concerning Leithart is thus not personally going against the “Voice of God,” for two reasons: 1) they are not disagreeing with the Word of God per se, but an interpretation of that Word which doesn’t bear the same authority; 2) their disagreement with the confession does not negate your personal agreement with the confession. Unless you can please elaborate in further detail convincing me otherwise.

    Or, in other words, the fact that someone disagrees with the confession does not prove that they are reading Scripture in error.

  56. Sean Gerety said,

    October 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Thinking about this some more, I am impressed by the sheer hypocrisy of Howie lecturing Lane on the “Rembrandt-esque” beauty of submission, when he and the rest of the PNW (along with the SJC) refused to submit to the court’s wisdom when it adopted the FV/NPP report condemning Leithart and his Federal Vision as being “contrary to the Westminster Standards” and striking at “the vitals of religion.”

  57. Mark B said,

    October 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    ghenry
    Perhaps it’s better to approach this from a point of commonality. I agree with your statement: “I believe the WCF to be an accurate summation of some of the doctrines of Scripture (it isn’t exhaustive). However, I recognize that it doesn’t use the language of Scripture. It wasn’t divinely inspired. It is rather a church tradition’s interpretation of Scripture. It isn’t Scripture itself. I am under the authority of Scripture in a way that I am not under the authority of the confession. My interpretation of Scripture is not the Word of God. Rather, Scripture is the Word of God, and I am to seek to interpret and receive it faithfully.”
    I also agree when you say: “Going against your interpretation of Scripture is hence not necessarily by logical consequence going against the Word of God. Your interpretation is a subjective appropriation that may or may not actually conform to God’s Word.” For that matter, I don’t disagree with most of your main points, where I disagree with you is when you seem to be implying that the confession and Scripture are at odds with each other, and even there I’m not even sure you personally believe that.
    However, It still seems to me that we are talking past each other. For one thing, my observation depends on its context, which is a doctrinal controversy in a confessional denomination. We aren’t discussing my personal interpretation of Scripture, or your personal interpretation of Scripture, or Howie’s personal interpretation of Scripture, or Lane’s or anyone else in the PCA. The confession is our shared interpretation of Scripture, that which binds us all together, or at least officers of the PCA took an oath to that effect. We all agree that the confession contains the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. It should be what defines us as a denomination. So, I reaffirm what I stated above is a few comments, there is an issue of prioritization for submission here. If someone states that we should submit to the majority of the brothers on a issue, but that position is in conflict with the confession, what holds the greater weight? We all have agreed that the confession contains the doctrine taught is Scripture, so if we defer to nose counting in favor of the confessional position, how can it not be seen as contradicting the voice of God (Scripture)? Logically, the only way out of this conclusion is for someone to say they don’t believe that the confession is faithful to Scripture on this point, but if they believe that, are they not in conflict with their vows? And if they can no longer affirm their vows, why are they in a confessional denomination?

  58. Howie Donahoe said,

    October 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Mr. Gerety @57 – Fair question (at least I think it was a question). Four thoughts.

    1) Can you point to anywhere in the PCA’s FV Study Committee report where they “condemned” Dr. Leithart specifically and/or alleged his particular view “struck at the vitals of religion?” If such comment exists, one would expect to read it in the section where the Committee dealt directly with him by name, in 34 lines in 5 paragraphs – page 2220 at http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/07-fvreport.pdf

    2) Can you tell me which of the 9 Declarations adopted by the Memphis GA was a directive requiring submission by a Presbytery, and explain how it was so? For a different understanding of the effect of these Declarations, you might consider this five-page extract from an exhibit submitted in the Pacific NW’s June 2011 trial. https://www.dropbox.com/s/gyqvba5ubixz1ij/Nine%20Declarations.pdf

    3) Given that two members of the FV Study Committee (including its chairman) voted with the 17-2 majority in the Hedman Case (declining to reverse the PNW acquittals), I assume either (a) they misunderstood their own Committee report and/or misunderstood the facts in the Hedman Case or (b) you do. I lean towards the latter.

    4) Perhaps this conversation could continue better over a burger or a beer. You sound like an interesting fellow. Let me know when and where. I’ll come to you. 704-907-7479. But I might wear Kevlar and ask the waitress not to bring any sharp utensils to the table.

  59. Sean Gerety said,

    October 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Howie, I didn’t ask a question. I merely pointed out your hypocrisy in demanding submission to a decision which flies in the face of Jesus Christ and His Gospel and your refusal to submit to the nearly unanimous will of the GA that reminded you of your solemn duty to “condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 31-2; 13-9f). “

    In this you failed.

    1) The entire report is a condemnation of Leithart’s theology from his view of imputation as a “redundancy,” to his belief that the magic of baptism is what unites a person to Christ and not faith alone. I really can’t think of even one of the 9 declarations that doesn’t have Leithart in mind.

    2) No surprise. Predictable, really. Notice, I never said you were required to submit to the wisdom of the GA which adopted the FV report, only that you chose not to.

    The study report provided was designed, at least in theory, so that Presbyteries, even one as confused about the fundamentals of the Gospel as the PNW appears to be, might correctly adjudicate cases like the one made against Leithart. Instead, you exonerated a man who proclaimed at trial:

    “And yes, covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment. But this is all done in union with Christ so that our covenant faithfulness is dependent on the work of the spirit of Christ in us and our covenant faithfulness is about faith trusting the spirit to – – to will and to do of his good pleasure.” –Quoted by the Prosecution in Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 195).

    Further, if the SJC’s decision is not reversed (and I don’t think it will be), no man is required to submit to their decision. They are free to leave the PCA and they should if they value the Gospel more than burgers and beer.

    3) Yes, those members failed to “condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 31-2; 13-9f) and have helped confirm the opinion that the PCA FV report would have been better employed as toilet paper.

    4) Sadly, this is not the sort of disagreement that a burger or a beer can fix. Although, perhaps one too many IPAs might explain how you can see nothing wrong with a pastor who teaches that “covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment.” This, in spite of declaration 9 which states:

    “The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.”

  60. October 21, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Howie, RE #50,

    The DPOs to which you refer are limited to members of the particular commission or court that makes the decision. For all the strengths of our BCO, there are very limited options for dealing with wayward Presbyteries such as PNWP or MOP. In this case, neither Lane nor I can file DPOs in PNWP or MOP. MOP purged their prosecutor, so setting an example for others who might not conform. Our system is a bit like the Articles of Confederation in that regard. As long as Leithart and Meyers remain in PNWP and MOP, they are protected. Were they to try to leave for confessional presbyteries, they’d rediscover what Rick Lusk found when he left LAP – no safety outside of their sanctuary.

    We used to have memorials such as were used to call LAP to account a few years back, but those were eliminated. It seems that the trend in the PCA is to live and let live – faux peace over the purity of the gospel. Jer 6:14 comes to mind. Frank’s comment #32 citing Hodge is right on target – we are at least partially defined by what we tolerate.

    Also, consider WCF 31.4 for guidance. I don’t see an exemption for PNWP or MOP in there. Submission to a decision that denigrates the gospel is not so simple nor so desirable as you indicate, The exists a vast chasm between what color carpet for which the Session votes and upholding the truth of the gospel against gross error.

  61. Howie Donahoe said,

    October 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Mr. Gerety – I’ll leave the invitation open, because I think a burger and a beer can almost always help discussions – especially if it’s one of the very fine Northwest IPA’s. I don’t expect to persuade you of anything, but I don’t think our Lord frowns on brothers meeting together. Or maybe I just really like IPA’s.

  62. jsm52 said,

    October 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for [a diversion of?] the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
    Jude, vs.3

    Grateful to Lane et.al. for holding to gospel lines always under assault.

  63. Sean Gerety said,

    October 22, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Howie, the likelihood of you and I ever meeting in person while remote, is not impossible. If we ever do, I want you to defend that hideous piece of anti-Christian sophistry you posted above: “Defense Response to the Court’s First Question.”

    I’d like to hear you explain how the 9 declarations of the FV report are only opinions, and evidently wrong ones, and that the authors of the report were wrong about what the Confession teaches regarding things like the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience and satisfaction by belief alone, the CoW in opposition to the mono-covenantalism of the FV , that faith alone (and not water baptism) is what effects covenantal union with Christ, that those united to Christ can never be lost, and that justification is not “in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone.”

    I would also like to hear you explain how the false gospel of salvation by faith and works of the FV doesn’t strike at the vitals of the faith and how someone who teaches that “covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment” is really “my brother in Christ” even my “elder.” Maybe you can do that in light of Galatians 1:8 and 3:10.

    I think that would be a good place to start.

  64. ghenry said,

    October 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Mark B (#58): I don’t mean to imply that Scripture and the confession are at odds with each other, simply that our theology is always open to correction from Scripture. In other words, Scripture is the Word of God, not the confession. I apologize if I misunderstood you earlier but I become very nervous when people allow “Voice of God” or “Word of God” language to filter over to describe the confession. The fact is that the PCA actually IS an institution of men. Christ didn’t give us the confession. Christ didn’t create this denomination. Christ created the Church, the Bride of Christ. He gave us Scripture as His Word, through his apostles. We must distinguish between the institutional forms of the visible church and the universal Bride of Christ, of which Christians in the PCA are a part, not the whole.

    The confession is an act of receiving and affirming God’s word, hopefully faithfully, but never closed off from theological repentance if need be. For me, it is not simply enough to say “Person X is against the confession on this point, therefore they are not obeying the Word of God!” Rather, I must take an extra step: “Person X is against the confession on this point… let us search Scripture to see which position faithfully reflects God’s Word.” The first only requires immediate institutional censure. The second requires charity, reading God’s Word, and discussing these things with humility and openness to correction from Scripture. That doesn’t mean Person X is correct, or that charity requires that we ultimately agree with them. It simply means the root authority here is Scripture… the confession itself affirms this. To think about the confession in this way is in itself confessional.

    I’m still not convinced that I am disobeying God’s Word by remaining in a denomination with someone else who disagrees with certain points of the confession. However, perhaps I am simply one of these cwaga folks that Lane speaks of. I personally disagree with Leithart but am not convinced that Leithart disagrees with the confession on the “essentials.”

    Alas, I will be away from internet access for the rest of the week, so I shall leave this as my final thought on this for now. Thanks for the discussion, all.

  65. greenbaggins said,

    October 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Ghenry, a few points in response. First a question: do you believe that the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God, as the Reformers stated? If you do, then can you see how a “how much more” argument might apply to a confession that was carefully hammered out by the very best theologians of the era? It is not the “norming norm” that is true (it is the “normed norm”), and it is not an infallible document. However, it is the churchly agreed-upon way of reading the Scriptures for the PCA, the OPC, and other Westminsterian denominations. People need to do their trial of the confession before they take the vow that states that they believe the Westminster Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. They don’t keep on putting the Standards on trial all throughout their ministry. Otherwise, they were not ready to take the vow, and they would not hold it in good conscience.

  66. October 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Lane,

    That is exactly why I didn’t want to walk into the trap of allowing the Leithart defense to make the trial about “Who’s biblical on this point, The Confession of the defendant?” I treated the Confession as right by default, making the question about whether Leithart was in line with the Confession (rather than whether the Confession was in line with his interpretation of the Bible).

    If I were still Reformed I would still be arguing for strict subscription to a new Confession that only said what is essential to the system of doctrine. Say less, but say it louder.

  67. jsm52 said,

    October 25, 2013 at 12:22 am

    If I were still Reformed…

    It’s never too late…

  68. October 25, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Don’t … tempt me, Frodo!

  69. Martin said,

    October 25, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Frodo lives!

  70. jsm52 said,

    October 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Frodo: Sam! Vatican-Elves! They’re going to the Tiber beyond Geneva. To the Roman Towers.
    Sam: They’re leaving Reformed-earth.
    Frodo: Never to return…

  71. Bob S said,

    October 26, 2013 at 2:01 am

    The skeptical chutzpah of those like ghenry is truly amazing.
    But why stop at reinventing the confession from scratch in every generation? Why not the wheel or the alphabet?

    Leithart puts on his fundamentalist spectacles when it suits him and then tells us that baptism unites us with Christ – but not as per Jn. 6:37. Yet he cannot tell us when Christ says he is the door, whether that means a screen, garage or dutch door. IOW maybe his high falutin biblicism is not all that it is cracked up to be.

    Yes, every generation has to appropriate the truths of the confession in the light of the ultimate truth of Scripture, but one thing the latter does is command us to teach and preach sound doctrine. Ghenry doesn’t sound like he thinks we can ever confess it though he might not inconsistently go so far to say we can never know it. (Fat lot of good it will do us or the church then, but hey.) Regardless somebody needs to be able to distinguish between infallible and inerrant for starters.

    That is exactly why I didn’t want to walk into the trap of allowing the Leithart defense to make the trial about “Who’s biblical on this point, The Confession of the defendant?” I treated the Confession as right by default, making the question about whether Leithart was in line with the Confession (rather than whether the Confession was in line with his interpretation of the Bible).

    Since somebody’s over here, doing what, playing footsie with the possibility of being a trophy reconvert? I figure his legitimate remarks are fair game.
    As in no mention who makes The Church infallible/unquestionable by default, rather than whether the Bible is infallible and the church is in line with it.

  72. ghenry said,

    October 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Lane, #66: “First a question: do you believe that the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God, as the Reformers stated?” This question doesn’t exactly indicate the nuances of the Reformed position on preaching. In order to show how, I will simply answer your question with a question: Do you believe that when Leithart preaches the Word, it is the Word of God? or Do you believe that when Roman Catholics preach the Word, it is the Word of God?

    “If you do, then can you see how a ‘how much more’ argument might apply to a confession that was carefully hammered out by the very best theologians of the era?”

    I don’t, particularly. I have a great deal of respect for the Reformed position, as I think my comments here have indicated. However, I believe, as did Luther and Calvin and the rest of the Reformers, that my conscience is always captive to the Word of God above all. I don’t believe someone’s ordination vows should cause them to shut off their conscience, or never reconsider their positions, or to turn a blind eye to Scripture. If someone takes a vow affirming the Standards, then they agree with the Standards at that point in their life. And if they ever change their position due to their conscience being bound to Scripture, they have a duty to tell their Presbytery accordingly that this has happened. This is all evident in the BCO. Thus, if someone affirms the Standards, that doesn’t mean they believe the Standards to be an infallible rule never to be questioned ever again. It simply means they affirm the Standards.

    Jason, #67: I agree with you on this point. The trial was not about what was biblical, but whether Leithart agreed with the Confession or not. This doesn’t mean the Confession is above question, but simply that amendments to the Confession are best pursued through another channel (not a trial).

    Bob, #72: I do not recognize myself at all in your strange caricature. I am neither a skeptic nor a doctrinal agnostic. What I hope I am is theologically repentant. The Church is not yet in a state of glory, nor are her denominations, nor is her theology. Recognition of this fact is at the heart of Reformed Theology. I bear a great deal of respect for the Standards – I affirm them on almost every point (with an exception on recreational / entertainment activities on the Sabbath). But not even 1% of the Christians in the world affirm the Standards. And while truth is not by majority, this fact reminds me to take all the traditions of the Church catholic into account in my theological studies, and to search God’s Word to see what is true in each.

    In this, I think I am simply in keeping with the Reformed tradition at its best. Consider, for example, Abraham Kuyper’s similar position in “Sacred Theology” pp. 321-23, in which he argues against both confessional skepticism and confessional absolutism. My hope is that my theology is both confident and humble.

    I will leave that as a parting thought, as I will not have time to continue this conversation at present… feel free to respond though. I would request, however, that my position not be reduced to a simplistic caricature, if it can be helped.

    Blessings, brothers.

  73. Bob S said,

    October 28, 2013 at 2:54 am

    73. ghenry. As below, your selective appeal to just Chapt.I from the Second Helvetic Confession hardly enhances the credibility of your argument.

    Chapt. I
    THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful;

    Chapt. II
    THE TRUE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE. The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations. Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is called the conception of the Roman Church, that is, what the defenders of the Roman Church plainly maintain should be thrust upon all for acceptance.

    Chapt. XIX
    THE THING SIGNIFIED IS NEITHER INCLUDED IN OR BOUND TO THE SACRAMENTS. We do not approve of the doctrine of those who teach that grace and the things signified are so bound to and included in the signs that whoever participate outwardly in the signs, no matter what sort of persons they be, also inwardly participate in the grace and things signified.

    IOW if Rome and Liethart oppose the true interpretation of Scripture, their preaching is not preaching.

    Further wethinks thou protest too much.
    That’s because the answer to the quandary is found in your answer to Jason:

    but simply that amendments to the Confession are best pursued through another channel (not a trial).

    If indeed Liethart’s theological/sacramental novelties are amendments, rather than a radical reworking of the Confession, never mind Scripture.

    Which is to say, of course you don’t recognize yourself in mine. That would be duplicitous on your part.
    Rather you seem to have been taken in by the “strange caricature” – your term, my application – that Leithart and the FV have made of the Bible and the WCF; that we are truly – but perhaps only temporarily – justified/united with Christ through baptism and not faith alone.

    To be sure, we are not to be too hard on the weaker brother, but when he takes it upon himself under the guise of a conscience bound to Scripture to publicly defend the smarter and slicker brethren who are attempting to foist over upon the church, a vicious and superstitious caricature of what Scripture teaches and rework the protestant abc’s on justification by faith alone, it’s a little much not to expect a vigorous response.

    As for the remark:
    I bear a great deal of respect for the Standards – I affirm them on almost every point (with an exception on recreational /entertainment activities on the Sabbath).

    Be nice.
    Maybe Jason will invite you to his Stupor Bowl Party next year. Bryan might even be there, as well the rest of the CtC faithful.

    cordially

  74. Brad B said,

    October 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Since reading the posts on this topic, I find myself very grateful that there are elders fighting for the purity of the doctrine of JBFA. As I see it it is a fight over the purity of the gospel itself. Why would I state it that way? I only have experience to offer in defense of the statement since the squabble over definitions and interpretations seems never ending and those called, trained, and proven, AND are above me have done that work. I dont know that my experience is of any value to this discussion or not, but I aim to make a point that I haven’t seen yet and that is application of the two views.

    When I came to true Protestantism, and learned the doctrines of grace and even as I began to embrace them intellectually as the true word, I still made my efforts to obey God without knowing[read loving] them.

    Over time I noticed my efforts to do good only raised up sin in me, for example reading the bible daily with the expectation that I’m proving myself worthy often resulted in my mind wandering toward sinful fleshly lusts during or shortly after reading which, however much I tried to resist sometimes hours or days later, I usually failed. This pattern I still see at work [if I rely on my own effort and dont hold tight to JBFA] I think the apostle Paul describes this…that is, when I try to do good, I’m always met with the clear message that “no good thing dwells in me”. I see and experienced this as JBFA+obedience.

    Now, once coming to love[read know the doctrines of grace, at the expense of my ego, I realize the power of the gospel to allow me to participate in good works without polluting them. The fuel of the engine of good works is the gospel, the pure gospel, the one that provides that I dont bring anything to the table except a contrite heart. A heart that knows I am a beggar and always will be…and the one that knows that my immense indebtedness is swallowed up freely by Jesus. What do I get from that{?}, life itself. Hmm, lose life=find it.

    I wonder do those so willing to compromise the pure gospel know it?[feel free to read love there.] Is it possible that the power to obey and live, that I receive from the context of JBFA in the preaching of the word and in the sacraments can be had if JBFA+ obedience is in view? Honestly, from a hard headed and stiff necked life lived experience, I simply cannot see how. I’ve been there/done that and dont want any part of it-it is a recipe for a hard time.

    [ps, please dont misunderstand, my flesh tempts me still to add to it but I’ve come to know that enemy, by grace]

  75. Mike Cara said,

    October 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I was at the trial and I was ashamed. It was a shame and a sham, and the Pacific Northwest Presbytery and the whole PCA should repent….Reformation?…especially on this day….what a joke!

  76. Howie Donahoe said,

    October 31, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Mike @76 – Are you still a minister in the PCA?

  77. Mike Cara said,

    November 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    No thank you. I was raised Roman Catholic…

  78. Howie Donahoe said,

    November 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Mike@76&78 – Are you the Mike Cara that was once a TE member of Pacific NW?

  79. Mike Cara said,

    November 1, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Aren’t many Pharisees they say these days
    But look behind the masks in churches I say!
    They are practiced politicians who creep and hide
    While peering lustfully at Christ’s beautiful bride
    With power and brokerage they seek to control
    The sheep and the shepherd, the church, the whole

    But listen you Pharisees filled with your pride
    God doesn’t slumber nor sleep nor hide
    And on that Day when you plead your pitiful case
    Your lies will chauffeur you to your very own place
    And all your desires will there then be burned
    For God’s face from you is hardened and turned

    But Christ will stand with me on that Day
    So listen you Pharisees…get outta my way!

  80. Mike Cara said,

    November 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Green Baggins has stated some things about how he was handled…I would urge you all to work it out in a way that glorifies the Lord on a personal level.

  81. Howie Donahoe said,

    November 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Mike @76 – You still haven’t answered the question if you were once a TE in Pacific NW. Therefore, I will assume you were (since only presbyters were allowed to attend the trial). And if that’s the case, perhaps you should inform the readers about the non-theological circumstances leading to your departure from the PCA. That might shed some light on the credibility of the statement you make at #76.

  82. Mike Cara said,

    November 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Serioulsy? You think this kind of thing makes you make a case of some kind? This man said you said some things about him which obvioulsy he does not see as honorable, and now you try it on me? Really? Lol I believe, sir, you should flee to Jesus. He can give your life true purpose and meaning. He will fill the void you obviosly have in your life. Perhaps you then will feel good enough about yourself, in Christ, where you wont have to get your jollies playing these game

  83. Mike Cara said,

    November 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    I reading more about the PCA and Federal Vision it seems clear to me that it is NOT Confessional and is indeed akin or truly Roman Catholicism. Of course, this is my opinion only. If others dont hold that opinion…that’s ok with me.

  84. Frank Aderholdt said,

    November 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Please, brothers, more light, less heat!

  85. Bob S said,

    November 2, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Speaking of more light, what was the outcome of the Oct. SJC meeting?
    Did it take place or was it canceled?
    Thank you.

  86. Phil D. said,

    November 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

    RE: #86,

    It seems this would be a simple enough question to have answered. Why does it seem like PCA officials/elders are so reticent to answer even rudimentary, factual questions like this..?

  87. Mark B said,

    November 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    This is just my understanding, FWIW. The only required meeting of the SJC is in the spring (they are only required to meet once a year). One of the primary issues on the fall docket was postponed due to an unrelated issue of a non doctrinal nature in the presbytery involved, thus negating the necessity of the meeting It would be best to ask someone on the SJC if someone wished additional information before reports are filed for GA. I don’t think there is any reticence, just not much going on.

  88. Mike Cara said,

    November 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Breaking News: SJC will not assume original jurisdiction over Leithart case. The judgment concludes that BCO 34-1 does not allow the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction over a case that has already been adjudicated. FLEE BABYLON!

  89. December 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

    […] to set the record straight on these matters is, again, the wrongness of the SJC decision. I have written before on how the SJC did NOT need to show great deference to PNW’s decision. This post adds more […]


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